Aflatoxins and growth impairment: A review

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March 7, 2013 by WASHplus

Critical Reviews in Toxicology, 2011; 41(9): 740–755

Aflatoxins and growth impairment: A review

Pornsri Khlangwiset1, Gordon S. Shephard2, and Felicia Wu1
1Department of Environmental and Occupational Health, Graduate School of Public Health, University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA, and 2PROMEC Unit, Medical Research Council, Tygerberg, South Africa

Abstract – Aflatoxins, fungal toxins produced by Aspergillus flavus and Aspergillus parasiticus in a variety of food crops, are well known as potent human hepatocarcinogens. Relatively less highlighted in the literature is the association between aflatoxin and growth impairment in children. Foodborne aflatoxin exposure, especially through maize and groundnuts, is common in much of Africa and Asia—areas where childhood stunting and underweight are also common, due to a variety of possibly interacting factors such as enteric diseases, socioeconomic status, and suboptimal nutrition.

The effects of aflatoxin on growth impairment in animals and human children are reviewed, including studies that assess aflatoxin exposure in utero and through breastfeeding. Childhood weaning diets in various regions of the world are briefly discussed. This review suggests that aflatoxin exposure and its association with growth impairment in children could contribute a significant public health burden in less developed countries.

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